Monthly Archives: June 2012

The Birthday Prompt

Today’s prompt–to write a story about one of your characters’ birthdays–may seem simple, but it isn’t.

Why’s that? Because of one extra rule I’m going to throw in:

The birthday celebration you’re writing about must be correct to their culture and must also be different from what’s usually done in our culture–how different is up to you.

Some thoughts to get you started:

  • In medieval times, they often didn’t celebrate birthdays. Instead babies were named a number of days–sometimes years–after their birth, and their Naming Day was celebrated.
  • Many cultures send their kids on pilgrimages or vision quests when the kids become adults.
  • Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t even CELEBRATE birthdays–what if you’re character’s mad because if they lived in the next town over, they’d be having a big party, but their parents don’t believe in that stuff?
  • Not all cultures give gifts on birthdays, and in some, it’s common practice to only give gifts that will be useful.

I hope that will help get you started. Please post the first sentence–or paragraph if it’s short enough–of your response in the comments.

My response:

For my tenth birthday, my mother took me to Free Cove. I’d always wanted to see the capitol with its four towers, representing the four great families of our nation.

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Musa Author Interview: Paul Stansfield

Today I’m pleased to introduce Paul Stansfield, author of Dead Reckoning.

1. Can you tell us a little about your book, “Dead Reckoning”?

Many horror/suspense stories revolve around good versus evil battles, and many times the good characters tend to be kind of saintly, and the evil ones utterly and completely bad. I thought it might be interesting to have the same vicious fight, but between average, decent yet flawed characters. Some of the characters do terrible, murderous things to each other, but they do so with good reasons. I think most people, being in their situation, would react in a similar way.

2. When did you first realize that you wanted to pursue writing as more than a hobby?

I always dreamed of writing, even going back to when I was a ten year old kid writing stories inspired by Legos and Star Wars. But in my mid-twenties I finally stopped the idle dreaming and started to write more determinedly, and most importantly, started to send out my stories to magazines and publishers. Plus, of course, my dream hasn’t been fully realized, as I don’t write as a full time job. But hopefully “Dead Reckoning” is a foot in the door, so to speak, and I’ll build from there.

3. How did you plan “Dead Reckoning”?

I came up with the basic storyline in one burst, and then filled in the details as they occurred to me, or as I kept writing it. I also used an outline for this book, along with my usual compulsive notes. I had more characters in “Dead Reckoning” than I usually do, so it was sometimes difficult to remember which zombie actor was doing what, or which campers were already killed, etc.

4. What do you do when you get stuck on a writing project?

I find a good hour long walk really helps me when I’m stuck. Doing some activity where one’s mind can (and always does) wander allows me to think better. The only tricky thing is trying to remember all the ideas I think are good until I get back home. Sometimes a long drive serves the same purpose.

5. Can you tell us a bit about your editing process?

The use of Luddites in my story wasn’t just a coincidence—I do have some of their tendencies. For example, I can only write with pen and paper. Then, when I’m finished, I type it in using the computer, and at this point I make any changes I think the story needs. So my original is basically the rough draft, with the typical cross-outs, sentences and paragraphs in the margins, etc.

6. Which part of the writing process is most difficult for you and how do you make it easier on yourself?

Having the discipline to write consistently. There are always distractions, or I’m tired from work, or I’m just not in the mood. For my longest novel (still unpublished), I set up a quota of one page, or about 500 words, a day, and managed to keep to it. Alas, I’m not always this consistent.

7. What are three things you think have been instrumental to your success?

The first would be discipline. I could clearly improve drastically on this, but on the other hand, I have managed to write dozens of short stories, and several novellas and novels. The second would be having a thick enough skin. I know people who like to write, but are unwilling to put it out there, to submit their stories. No one likes rejection, but you have to get used to it in this field, and you can’t let it discourage you. The third would simply be a sometimes obsessive need to write. I kind of have a love/hate relationship with it, but I find I actively want to write. Long periods of inactivity leave me feeling antsy and pent up.

8. What are three things you wish you hadn’t done when starting out as a writer?

I wish I’d gotten off my ass and started getting serious at a younger age, and put in more work at it, started submitting earlier, etc. Secondly, I wish I hadn’t been so slow to embrace computers and the internet—it would have saved me a lot of time, and postage. (And as I stated, I’m still fighting this tendency. But I need to take baby steps.) Third, I wish I hadn’t fallen for a scam literary agent’s pitch. At the time there weren’t as many resources on avoiding these (like WriterBeware, Piers Anthony’s site, and others) but I still should have been better educated and suspicious. That naivety cost me some money and was quite embarrassing.

9. What piece of advice do you think is most important for aspiring writers to remember?

I don’t have anything profound or new. I suppose the writing advice clichés are clichés because they’re so true. I would advise prospective writers to simply keep at it. See projects through, and keep sending ‘em out. If one publisher/magazine rejects it, send it to another, until you’ve gone through every one. And if a single piece gets rejected by them all, write another, and another. As for criticism, if one or two readers suggest changes that you don’t agree with, you can probably disregard them. If five or ten all suggest the same alteration, it’s probably reasonable criticism—try to follow it and edit your story in that way if you can. For more practical advice, I find The Writer’s Market, and The Writer’s Market for Short Story and Novel Writers to have good writing advice as well as lots of names and addresses of magazines, publishers, and agents.

10. What are you working on next that readers can look forward to?

Among Musa’s nice features is its willingness to publish pieces of varying lengths, from short stories to novellas to novels. Since I have a backlog of all of these hopefully some will see the light of day soon. As for new projects, I need to get back to a potential novella/novel about the family of a suspected killer. And it’s probably obvious, but “Dead Reckoning” won’t have a sequel.

Bio: Paul Stansfield was born and raised in New Jersey. He graduated from Rutgers University with a major in anthropology and works as a field archaeologist. He’s also had short stories published by Bibliophilos, Mausoleum, Ragshock, Mobius, Morbid Curiosity, Generation X National Journal, Cthulhu Sex Magazine, Aoife’s Kiss, and Conceit Magazine.

You can buy a copy of Dead Reckoning here.

Creating a Coherent Marketing Strategy for Your Blog

You might think that once you’ve set up your blog and started posting your brilliant thoughts and diatribes that people will flock to your writing and become your adoring fans almost instantly.

You’re terribly wrong if you think that. There are millions of blogs, and every minute hundreds more are created. Everyone and their mother has a blog, and nobody has time to look through them in search of brilliance. In order to be heard over the millions of voices clamouring for attention on the world wide web, you need to make yourself visible in different arenas, particularly in the world of social media.

Remember that in the blogging game content is always king. Without clear, interesting and useful information, your blog will wither and die, read by no one but your mother–and maybe not even her, if her Google Reader’s too full. You can use social media to bring your blog in front of thousands, but if they don’t find the content useful, they’ll leave as soon as they’ve arrived.

But what if I’ve already prepared great content, you ask, and I still can’t get anyone to visit my blog?

Well, my friends, that’s what social media’s for.

Social media not only allows free, instant contact between you and your friends no matter where in the world they are, but it allows you to find your fans and potential customers just as quickly. It also allows you to communicate with them more efficiently, finding out what they’re hoping for from your blog and your brand.

There are dozens of social media sites. Some are broad and accept anyone; others are more focused on a specific niche. Each site gives you access to a slightly different crowd and is tailored to a slightly different form of communication. The three most commonly used social media sites for blogs are Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin.

Facebook is the most popular social media site and the one you’re most likely to already have an account on. I personally spend very little time on Facebook, but no discussion of online marketing would be complete without it.

There are a few things you can do on Facebook to increase your blog’s visibility. Certain applications will allow you to hook your blog’s RSS feed directly up to your Facebook profile, ensuring that your friends will always see your new blog posts. You can–and, I’m told, should–also create a Facebook Fan Page for your blog, which can be used to share new blog posts and other information and to gather fans.

The best Facebook Fan Pages are a mix of personal information, business information, and links to other helpful sites within your niche. It’s important to respond to fans when they comment on your page. Today’s consumers like nothing more than to feel like part of a community–think of your Facebook Fan Page as an extension of your blog community.

Twitter is only slightly less popular and is my personal favourite social media site. Each status or shared link may be only 140 characters long. It limits rambling without limiting communication or the number of ‘followers’ you can acquire. Filling your Twitter feed with professionals in your industry is a great way to stay up to date and to find inspiration for posts–I can’t tell you how many blog posts here were inspired by a comment on Twitter.

The best way to use Twitter is by sharing 60% other people’s stuff and 40% your own links and products. It’s important to use your Twitter feed every day in order to stay relevant. The use of hashtags, such as #amwriting, at the end of your posts will help other people find them. Putting hashtags into your 140-character bio also makes it easier for professionals in your industry to find you.

It’s important to communicate with your Twitter followers too. The biggest thing people are looking for is, once again, community. Each day when you log into Twitter, your first stop should be the @Connect tab. The interactions page will tell you if anyone’s been trying to talk to you–and give you a chance to respond.

LinkedIn is a more selective, more career-focused social media site. When you join LinkedIn the very first thing you should do is fill in your profile–which looks a lot like a resume. Only mention positions you’ve worked that are relevant to your blog, and don’t forget to make your blog link prominent. I made my blog link more prominent by making my current position Owner/Writer at Dianna’s Writing Den.

LinkedIn is where you’ll do a lot of connecting with other professionals. You can connect it to your Twitter so that they update together, but it’s important to sometimes update LinkedIn on its own so people know you’re invested in the community there. There are also hundreds of groups designed to help connect you to like-minded people and LinkedIn features a job board.

It’s a good idea to set up your LinkedIn now, import your contacts from your email, and when you’ve got your blog all set up and ready to go, to send out a mass message to all your connections on LinkedIn telling them your blog’s just begun. Most of the messages I get through LinkedIn are review requests and links to shiny new author websites, to give you an idea of what LinkedIn’s useful for.

The Plan

A coherent marketing strategy involves all three of these websites. Depending on what you’re going to blog about, you might want to check out more niche-based social media sites like Goodreads for writers. Aim to devote ten-fifteen minutes a day to each social media site, and you’ll be able to watch your followers/fans/connections grow along with your blog traffic.

Right now what you should do is set up an account with each of these social media sites and go exploring. Figure out what people in your niche are saying on these sites–and make sure what you’re going to say is just different enough to stand out from the crowd.

Market Listing June 22nd

I finished school two days ago and my brain was too dead to think up a theme for today’s listing, but I do have three markets for you which accept fiction AND non-fiction, so I guess that’s a theme of sorts.

And, without further ado:

42 Magazine Any fan of Douglas Adams will enjoy the title of this magazine, and maybe even the rest of it, too. What’s cool about this magazine is that they’ll accept stories written in any genre, of any length–though I’m sure they’re less likely to take stories beyond 10K–and from anyone who can write well. They also take “Extras”, which can be anything from political essays to how to articles to cartoons to video games sent on CDs to their subscribers. They’ll pay $20 for anything you can dream up–and do well.

AE Sci Fi–The Canadian Fiction Review is looking for short stories between 500 and 3000 words in length, and they’ll pay you six cents per word, which is one cent above what the SFWA deems a ‘professional market’. They also accept non-fiction, primarily interviews and profiles of important science fiction authors, preferably Canadian ones. They also have something called capsule reviews, which they pay $7 for. Articles get $20, and an interview will earn you $30–but remember to query first, because they don’t take unsolicited non-fiction.

Black Warrior Review is looking for poems, short stories of under 7000 words, and non-fiction of under 7500 words. They also accept artwork and comics, though it seems they take fewer of those. Being published in Black Warrior Review nets you a one-year subscription to the magazine and an unspecified amount of money.

Remember that while I tell you a bit more about the magazines than their names–what they pay, what their word count limits are, what genres they accept–it’s still important to read through all the guidelines on their page and make sure you understand it. The number one reason why stories are rejected is because the author didn’t follow the guidelines in an obvious way. Each editor wants you to format your story a little differently from the next–don’t hurt your chances of publication by not paying attention.

When was the last time you submitted work? Where did you submit it to?

Author Interview&Scavenger Hunt: Steena Holmes

Today I’m pleased to introduce Steena Holmes, author of Finding Emma. She’s currently doing a blog tour managed by Women on Writing and running a scavenger hunt–for which the grand prize is helping her create a character for her next book! Luckily for us, she took the time out of her busy schedule to tell us a little bit about who inspires her and who she admires. Even luckier, you get the opportunity to participate in the scavenger hunt organized by Women on Writing at the bottom of the page.

1. Can you tell us a bit about how you conceived the idea for Finding Emma?

Would you believe me if I said that Emma’s story flashed before my eyes? It’s true. My children were playing in our front yard and one moment my youngest daughter was there and the next she was gone. The fear that took over in those seconds as I waited for her to appear seemed like a lifetime. All these scenarios played in my head about what could have happened and it wasn’t until I saw her again (she was on the other side of our neighbors hedge) that I realized I knew what my next story was going to be.

2. When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as more than a hobby?

I think it was my husband who actually realized it first. He started to notice a pattern – when I wasn’t writing I became very…grumpy. He was the one to suggest I start writing and make it a steady routine. The more I wrote the more I realized that it was a passion I had never really allowed myself to acknowledge. I had people ask me where I saw myself in 5 years and I always said – as a full-time writer. And here I am.

3. How much planning does it take before you’re comfortable starting a novel?

I try not to get too comfortable with a story at first. I start with the general idea and then build upon that, I plot it out in a rough form then I begin to write. I love it when the novel flows in a way that I never expected or imagined.

4. What is the hardest part of the writing process for you, and how do you make it easier for yourself?

The plotting is the hardest for me. It’s like walking through a house of mirrors at a carnival and not sure which way is up or which body is really yours. It usually takes me a while to really get the plot down in my story, to really understand what is happening and who my characters are.

5. What did your path to publication look like?

Here’s what I love about this journey towards getting published – it’s different for everyone! My journey started by winning a writing contest with my very first book. But it took me five years after that win to publish another story.

My first story was a christian romance, my second published piece was an erotic romance – talk about two very different genres! But it worked for me. I was in the middle of querying a novel and feeling unsure if I could write anything when I had a novella picked up by a epublisher. It wasn’t until my seventh novella that I realized that indie publishing was the road I wanted to take. So I pulled my novel from the agents who had it and self published it. Finding Emma became a bestseller within two weeks and just won the 2012 Indie Excellence Award for Fiction.

6. Who are some of the authors you admire most?

There are so many and the list keeps growing…

7. Who are some non-writers you admire?

Mothers who sacrifice daily for their families – women who serve our country, women who day in and day out give their all and all to ensure their children grow up to be strong adults.

8. How much influence would you say the people you admire have on your writing?

A lot. My dream, my goal, my passion is to be a strong woman. I need that strength in my daily life – as a mother, as a wife, as a woman, as a writer. I like to surround myself with strong women – whether it’s knowing them personally or reading about them, studying – it all matters.

9. What do you enjoy most about being a published author?

What do I enjoy most? Being able to live my dream! Knowing that I can do this full time, that I can provide for my family, that I can live my passions daily – that’s that I love the most!

10. What are you working on next that readers can look forward to?

I’m currently working on Emma’s Secret – a follow up to Finding Emma. Once again I’ve fallen in love with my characters and I love where this story is taking me. After that I want to lose myself in a small town series – where life is real and heartfelt and poignant. My goal is to help my readers lose themselves as well!
Thank you so much for hosting me and allowing me to share a little bit about myself!

Emma has invited all of us to the carnival for a Scavenger Hunt!

We’re on the hunt for all things related to carnivals.
At each stop along our Finding Emma tour there are clues. These might be words hidden in a guest post or a “word for the day” at the bottom of a book review. Each time you find a word submit it on Steena’s Scavenger Hunt page. http://www.steenaholmes.com/wow-scavenger-hunt/

Each entry equals one ticket to win.
Please enter only one “clue” per entry. Each entry earns another chance to win.

Prizes:

First Prize: Work with a Bestselling Author.
Our Grande Prize winner will help create a character for Steena Holmes’ next book!

Second and Third Prize Winners will each receive a signed copy of Finding Emma and a journal.
Contest runs June 4 – July 7. Open to U.S. and Canada. In the case of an international winner prize will be an eBook copy of finding Emma. Three winners will be chosen at random. Winners to be announced on July 9th. Winners will be posted on Steena Holmes’ website, in the comments section of this post, and notified by Steena Holmes via email.

For even more fun, visit the Carnival Board on Pinterest.
Steena (and Emma) love the Carnival. Come see their pictures of favorite memories of summer fun and fairs and pin up some of your own! (Hint…the pics will give you a clue to the word for the day) http://pinterest.com/steenah/summer-carnivals-childhood-memories/

Link for Scavenger Hunt on The Muffin
http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/2012/06/emmas-scavenger-hunt.html?tw_p=twt

Link to Steena’s tour launch on The Muffin
http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/2012/06/steena-holmes-author-of-finding-emma.html?tw_p=twt

To purchase your copy of Finding Emma, click here. To check out Steena Holmes’s website, click here.

Bio: Author of the new heart wrenching story “Finding Emma”, Steena is a woman who
believes that ‘in the end, all things succumb…to the passions of your heart’. Steena’s
life revolves around her family, friends and fiction. Add some chocolate into the mix
and she’s living the good life. She took those passions and made them a dream
come true by pouring her heart into each of her stories.

Finding Emma has quickly become a bestseller. Proceeds from each book will be
donated to The Missing Children’s Society of Canada – an organization dedicated to
reuniting families. Visit http://www.mcsc.ca for more information.

The Design of your Blog

This weekend an unexpected trip out of town without my laptop saw to it that my post didn’t make it from notebook to WordPress until now, and reminded me why I need to have back up posts scheduled here. But today, although having a back up plan is important, I’d like to talk to you about the design of your blog.

Blog design is incredibly important. You want your design to draw people in and to make them want to come back. Think of your blog like an online writing profile: you want it to look friendly and professional but still true to yourself.

Clashing colours, distracting background images and unusual fonts that don’t read well across all browsers can all keep people from coming back to your website. Many colour combinations hurt the eyes, particularly on the computer screen, and it’s important to find something that won’t strain your readers.

It varies from niche to niche, but what’s usually recommended is a white background with black text and only a few graphics on the page. It’s important not to clutter the page and make stuff hard to find. It’s also important to make sure it’s easy to read.

Today I’d like you to do some research. Look at the most popular blogs in your niche and evaluate their layouts. Answer the following questions about each blog you look at:

  • What are the most prominent colours?
  • How many graphics are there on the sidebars?
  • Is it easy to find everything?
  • What font is used?
  • How large are the images on the site?
  • What about this blog works for you?
  • What about this blog doesn’t work for you?

Once you’ve figured out what elements of design make you want to come back to any given blog, create a mind map and display all the elements you might like to have on your blog. Bear in mind that you can list anything you can daydream of, but if it’s a design tactic used rarely in your niche, it might turn people off rather than excite them. Your ultimate goal is to have a blog layout that stands out from the others in your niche, but not in a way that turns readers off or confuses them about the topic.

For example, if you’re writing a blog focused strictly on fantasy writing and mythology, you might not want the solar system for your background–but if your blog is where you plan on sharing your science fiction stories, it’s a great idea. Often the best background picture is no background picture, but if you can find something that’s not too distracting and that works with your topic, use it to your advantage.

Once you’ve created your mind map, cross out all the elements you think wouldn’t fit well with your blog’s intended topic and feel. Don’t start creating it right away. First, spend this week deciding if you’re going to code it yourself, use a pre-made template for your blogging software, or pay someone else to design it. Give yourself time to consider all the options and do some research into website design services. And while you’re weighing the options, try to keep writing one back up blog post per day so you’ll have even more by the time you get started.

Next week we’re going to discuss creating a detailed marketing plan for your blog. In the mean time, get cracking on those blog posts.

Author Interview&Contest: Frederick Lee Brooke

Today I’m participating in the Zombie Candie Whirlwind Tour through Novel Publicity. I hope you’ll enjoy this interview with Frederick Lee Brooke–and the contest at the end.

Please enjoy this interview with Frederick Lee Brooke, author of the genre-bending mystery Zombie Candy. Then read on to learn how you can win huge prizes as part of this blog tour, including $550 in Amazon gift cards, a Kindle Fire, and 5 autographed copies of the book.

1. What was the inspiration behind your novel, Zombie Candy?

There was a famous golfer whose wife chased him out of the house with a golf club in the middle of the night a couple of years ago. It was funny that she attacked her husband with his own weapon of choice. I got to thinking what must be going through a woman’s mind in that situation? I thought it would be interesting to explore the thought processes of a woman who discovers that her husband is a serial cheater. After the denial comes anger, but there is also a phase of grief. There’s guilt. Maybe she blames herself, rightly or wrongly. Candace oscillates between wanting revenge and wanting her husband back, and as the novel winds up she makes discoveries about herself that I thought a woman in her situation would be likely to make.

2. Do you think Zombie Candy will appeal to true zombie fans?

What’s a true zombie fan? I don’t want to give anything away, but any active zombie fan who participates in zombie walks, goes to festivals, etc. will love Zombie Candy. That being said, this is a book that has elements of mystery, horror and romance all in one. It had quite a few early readers, fans of all different genres, and the consensus is that it really works.

3. The book contains some of Candace’s favorite recipes. Why?

I confess, I love to cook, and it’s such an important part of my life, it just felt natural to have Candace want to share her recipes. We are all vulnerable to being attacked through our taste buds. I like reading about cooking, and I love watching cooking shows on TV. I feel like I’m learning something and tasting it at the same time. It felt right for this to be really important for Candace. At the same time, her husband Larry is so incredibly lacking in appreciation of her talents, not just the cooking itself, but organizing complex meals and directing the preparation of them by her class of twelve people. These are amazing skills, and Larry is blind to them. I thought marriages are sometimes like that, where people get to a point where they are totally ignorant of what their partner is great at.

4. There is a no-cilantro label on the back cover of the book. What is the significance of it?

Candace is a gourmet cook, and her cheating husband Larry insists on covering all his food with cilantro. This is one of those minor points of contention in a marriage that flares up and becomes important, like a trigger. I thought it was funny. And it seems a lot of people really do have strong feelings about cilantro, either for or against. When I was searching for a good graphic I came across pages on the internet like ihatecilantro.com and facebook.com/i-hate-cilantro.

5. After starting out in Chicago, why did you decide to set the story in Tuscany?

I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to Italy forty or fifty times in my life, sometimes for a two-week vacation, sometimes just for a very short trip. I absolutely love it there, from the food to the language to the beauty of the countryside and the architecture. In Zombie Candy, Candace realizes at a certain point that she has to get Larry out of his comfort zone. This is a guy who travelled all over the country every week for his work, and cheated on Candace with waitresses, flight attendants, whoever. He can adapt just about anywhere. But in Tuscany Larry discovers two things: 1) it’s not so easy to find a willing waitress or flight attendant to spend the night with him; and 2) there are zombies here.

6. How would you describe the way you work as a writer?

I guess I’m a bit of a chameleon, able to adapt pretty well to circumstances around me. My wife and I have three boys and they are not quiet. I can do most revision with significant background noise and interruptions. Only when I’m writing a first draft or doing some serious planning work do I need peace and quiet. Then I’ll often take a walk in the forest anyway. It helps a lot to be adaptable. If I had to put off writing every time someone asked me to cook dinner or help them with their homework, my book would never have been finished. For me, being able to jump right back in has been the key to being able to finish big projects.

7. Did you always want to be a writer?

I was an early reader and this led to curiosity about writing stories. My sister and I wrote stories during long car trips. In high school and then in college I dreamed of writing novels, but I only started writing short stories after graduating from college. That writing phase lasted about five years, and I learned a lot about writing, but life got in the way, with marriage and job and career and kids. Only when my kids were halfway grown and my career reached a certain level of success did I find a way to return to writing. Now I’m fulfilling a lifelong dream.

8. What process do you go through to define your characters?

I start with an image of them as basically good or basically evil, and put them into a context or a situation, and then just basically make sure there is plenty of conflict. My characters are never perfectly white or black. I think we’re drawn to weaknesses. We want to watch them mess up, and see how they’ll extricate themselves. Of course, sometimes all my planning goes out the window. It’s a cliche to say that characters surprise you with their actions, but they do. They’re defined by what they do and what they say. I did some acting in high school and have always loved the theater, and knowing what it means to be in character helps me be in character when I’m writing dialogue. My books are fairly dialogue-driven. What the characters say reveals what they are thinking and feeling.

9. What writing advice did you receive that was most beneficial to you?

I had to learn to love conflict. The conflict is the story. The conflict shows the true colors of your characters. I grew up in the suburbs in a family where we avoided conflict at all costs. We talked like diplomats. So embracing conflict has been something I had to learn.

10. You’re an indie author. Any thoughts on the divide between independent publishing and traditional publishing?

I think the market will sort itself out, but it’s going to take time. Good books will find their way into readers’ hands somehow, whether in printed or electronic form. We need our stories every day. We can’t live without stories. For me personally, independent publishing has been the perfect solution. I found an excellent editor who professionally edited my manuscript. I like the idea that I can control the timing of the publication of my books. If my first book, Doing Max Vinyl, had been traditionally published in April 2011 instead of the way I did it, it probably would have hit the remainder tables by Thanksgiving, and it would be out of print now. I think Zombie Candy might spark some interest in Doing Max Vinyl, so it’s a benefit to readers as well as to me that it continues to be available, rather than going out of print and being forgotten. E-books are clearly here to stay, because the consumers (readers) and providers (authors) are the big winners. The only losers are the bookstores, publishing companies, agents and others who refuse to adapt.

 

As part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, the price of the Zombie Candy eBook edition is just 99 cents this week. What’s more, by purchasing this fantastic book at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes. The prizes include $550 in Amazon gift cards, a Kindle Fire, and 5 autographed copies of the book.

All the info you need to win one of these amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment–easy to enter; easy to win!

To win the prizes:

  1. Purchase your copy of Zombie Candy for just 99 cents
  2. Enter the Rafflecopter contest on Novel Publicity
  3. Visit today’s featured social media event

About the book: Weaving elements of mystery, horror and romance in a hilarious romp that starts in Chicago and ends in a quaint medieval town in sun-drenched Tuscany, Zombie Candy is a genre-hopping knee-slapper of a novel. Get it on Amazon.

About the author: Frederick Lee Brooke has worked as an English teacher, language school manager and small business owner and has travelled extensively in Tuscany, the setting of part of Zombie Candy. Visit Fred on his website, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.

All the info you need to win one of these amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment–easy to enter; easy to win!

To win the prizes:

  1. Purchase your copy of Zombie Candy for just 99 cents
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Did you enjoy this interview?

Reaching Out to Readers: Creating Your Own Blog

I’d planned a dialogue workshop for this month, but then I realized something: I’ve never really delved into the subject of writing a blog. Blogging allows you to reach out to readers all over the world for free and to build your own little community. It also gives you a place to showcase your professional work to potential clients. Maintaining a scheduled blog also helps you build a writing routine. Not only that, but most of the time, it’s fun.

So why not create your own blog? It’s free, it’s easy to set up and it’s the most reliable–or at least easiest–way of getting your work out to readers. If you’re looking for a summer project that will help your writing career, creating a blog is the thing to do.

Since I’ve never really talked about it before, I’ve decided to walk you through the basics of blogging over the next few weeks.

Today’s goal is to create a conceptual plan for your blog. While my first several blogs were created on a whim, that’s not the best way to do things. Your blog is a career tool: it is a showcase of your work, and it brings readers–in other words, potential customers–to you. Creating it on a whim might be better than not creating it at all, or it may be a recipe for disaster.

Most new blogs shut down within six months. There are a number of reasons. People expect instant results and are disappointed when, like everything else in life, blogging takes hard work and time. Some bloggers realize they’re just not that interested in the topic they started the blog about after all. Others burn out creatively. Sometimes it’s because of outside stresses and other life pressures. Sometimes it’s because they set themselves a schedule that demanded too much of them. Other times it’s because they jumped in without a plan and have written all the ideas they could come up with on the fly.

Don’t let this happen to you. Follow my advice–which I followed for this blog, which might have been the ninth or so, no comment on the ones before–and hopefully you’ll manage to avoid the burnout that kills so many blogs after just six months.

1. Choose your Topic Wisely.

You’re going to want a topic which you’ll enjoy writing about, which you already know quite a bit about, and which you want to learn more about. If you don’t enjoy writing about it, it’ll show and the writing will be dull and uninspiring. If you don’t know anything about it, that means hundreds of hours of research–or looking like a complete idiot. If you don’t want to know more, eventually you will come to the end of your knowledge and be completely out of post ideas.

For me, writing was the obvious choice. I’m passionate about it, I’ve studied it for a long time, and I don’t plan to ever stop. For you, it might be related to your current day job–say, a finances blog if your alter ego is an accountant–or to something you studied in school and always wanted to study after school.

You might also want to make it something you’re going to have goals related to. For example, if you want to do an hour of yoga every day for a year, you might blog about that. If you’re trying to save money and put a down payment on a house, you might blog about that. If you’re trying to write one million words of fiction in a year, you might blog about that. Just make sure it’s something that will still hold your interest once your current goal is met.

2. Test your Topic.

Take the topic you think is most suited and create a mind map. Each bubble branching off from your topic should be an idea for a post or a series of posts. Time yourself and brainstorm for 15-20 minutes. If you come up with seven or more on your first brainstorming session, odds are you’ll be able to blog about the subject. If you didn’t, try the exercise with something else you think you might be able to blog about. Try it again until you find a topic where the post ideas flow easily.

Remember that if the post ideas don’t flow easily now, at the beginning, it’s going to be a lot harder to maintain your blog in the long run.

3. Choose a platform/host.

There are several blogging platforms, most of which are free. Some of them, like Blogger, host–as in provide the space for–your blog and allow for several pages as well as offering blogging software which makes it simple to post things even if you don’t know anything about web code. Others are just software packages which you upload onto a website hosted by another company.

WordPress, the most common and generally considered the easiest to use, comes in both formats. My blog is hosted by the primary wordpress.com site, but Darren’s Problogger, while it uses WordPress software, is hosted by a completely different company.

Self-hosting your WordPress or other blog has benefits such as more flexibility with advertisements, design and how the blog is run. Free hosting from Blogger or WordPress is a great way to start, but limits your design choice quite a bit and doesn’t give you a domain, which is essential for maximum traffic. The other option offered by WordPress–I’m not sure if Blogger offers it–is to register a domain with them. Which means they’re still hosting you–and some of the hosting cost is figured into the domain registration, I’m sure–but you have the domain of your choosing.

Your decision should be based on two factors: what you want from your blogging platform and what you’re willing to invest in your blog. There are comparisons between blogging platforms all over the web. Just ask Google which company can provide what you’re looking for.

4. Design a Schedule&Marketing Plan.

Your average blog updates between two and five times a week. Some post more, some post less. In order to develop a loyal following in most niches it’s important to post at least once a week. Fewer people will follow a blog that updates more frequently than five times a week due to time constraints, unless the updates are fairly short.

When creating a schedule it once again comes down to two factors: what is the minimum or maximum I can post without losing the reader’s interest, and what is the maximum I can write without burning myself out.

Ideally, you’ll choose something in the middle of both factors. I COULD write five posts a week, and most of you might even read them all, but I’d burn out after a while. I still burn out sometimes at three posts a week, but by segmenting my tasks into small chunks of time, I can usually prevent it.

As for your marketing plan, this doesn’t have to be complicated, especially at this stage. The main thing to do is create a list of forums, social media sites and email groups that you’re part of that are appropriate for promoting your blog. Then decide which ones you’d share each blog post with, which ones you’d only share a few of them which and which ones would be better suited to something like a link in your signature.

Voila, you have the beginnings of a schedule and a marketing plan. See, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

5. Start Writing Blog Posts.

Although you’ve decided which platform you’re going to use, don’t start creating your actual blog yet. Let ideas for the design and colour scheme bounce around in your head for a couple weeks before you make decisions.

Instead of jumping into design, go back to that mind map you made in step two. Start fleshing out each idea. Make it your goal to turn one of those ideas into a blog post every day until you’ve got them all written out.

Next week we’ll discuss designing your blog and creating your about page.

Are you starting any other new projects this summer? Do you already have a blog, and if so, what are you planning on doing there this summer?

Anthologies

Today I’d like to share three themed anthologies with you. Not all of them will pay much for your story, but they’ll all pay something. The best part about these anthologies is that they’ll allow you to see your name in a book–if you’re stuck in novel revision like me, it’s probably the only way you’ll see your name in a book for a while.

Each of these anthologies have a theme. Some are more specific than others. I’ve stayed away from anthologies which are tribute to famous(usually dead) authors and their mythologies, but there are usually a few of those published each year if you’re interested.

Please remember that I do not post full guidelines here and to read through the websites thoroughly before you submit.

Mermaid Tales: An Anthology will be published by Lucky Thirteen. They want stories of up to 20, 000 words about mermaids–other than The Little Mermaid, that is. Being a start up, they can only afford to pay $10 for stories of up to 10, 000 words and $20 for stories of up to 20, 000 words. However, this looks like a fun little anthology to be involved in and contributors will also be allowed to buy copies at production cost for a certain period of time.

The Inanimates I is seeking stories of between 3, 500 and 15, 000 words in which one of the main characters is an inanimate object with the fears and feelings of a human. They don’t want any dolls or dummies though, so be creative. They’ll pay an unspecified flat rate for each story and a contributor copy or two. Again, this sounds like more fun than profit.

The Mothman Chronicles is the highest paying of these anthologies, prepared to pay five cents per word up to 4, 000 words for stories involving the mothman. The stories do not have to be in known mothman territory. They do however have to be sent in by July 1st, so start brainstorming your ideas tonight.

Remember to thoroughly read the guidelines, to edit your story until it sparkles, and to enjoy the process. Themed anthologies are a fun way to get your name out there and to see yourself in print–so take advantage of them this summer and submit to as many as you can write stories for.

Author Interview Allison Cosgrove

Today’s author is not just any author–she’s a several year Nanowrimo winner and has been the City Word War Captain for Toronto at least once. Her debut novel, Sacrifice of Innocence, has just been released in ebook format by Creative House Press. Its release was celebrated with 100 special edition print copies–which, thanks to her charisma and huge contribution to every community she’s part of, she’s already sold.

She will be taking the time out of her busy day later to stop by, say hello, and maybe answer a few more questions, so keep your pen ready for any inquiries that cross your mind.

1. Can you tell us a bit about your novel, Sacrifice of Innocence?

The book is a main stream suspense thriller and the start of a much larger series.

“A cult has been killing children for its rituals and only one cop knows who they
are. But, Detective Stan Brookshire’s past keeps people from believing in him. Can
he rise above the stigma that shrouds his past and stop a cult from taking yet
another innocent child from her mother’s arms before its too late?”

2. What originally inspired you to write Sacrifice of Innocence?

My best friend did actually. One day when we were out at one of our favorite coffee
shops she asked me what was one thing that I had always wanted to accomplish as
a child but hadn’t yet. I told her about how I used to love to write stories as
a child but had never really pursued it because of one bad experience as a young
budding author. After that she was like a pit bull withy lock-jaw and wouldn’t
leave me alone until the addiction of writing took over and she didn’t have to
pester me anymore.

3. When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as more than a hobby?

I don’t know that there was some big “A ha!” moment when I decided to publish. I
think, for me anyways, it was more of a natural progression of things.

4. Who are some of your greatest literary idols and why?

Stephen King is at the very top of my list. He spent 13 years honing his craft and
never once gave up. It was his dogged determination to have his work accepted that
made him the great author so many people love today.

5. You’ve been a Nanowrimo participant for several years. How do you think Nanowrimo has changed you as a writer?

It allowed me to open myself more to the creative process and worry less about the
finer details until after the creative process had run it course. I find I get a
clearer story line when I am not stopping to correct my work every step of the way.

6. You also have three daughters. How do you find time to write when trying to raise children and meet the other demands of life?

Truth be told it was a lot easier to accomplish when I didn’t have to be stuck in an
office from nine to five. I was able to write pretty much when I had the urge to.
Now it is a bit trickier in the sense that I am far more tired when I get home at
night so it is catch as catch can. When I feel the need I try and write out at least
a few words on what I am thinking until I can expand on it later.

7. What does the writing process look like for you? (If you can manage
1-2 sentences about each part of the process, that would be cool)

I start with an idea and for me I try not to over analyze the plot. I go over the idea a few times to make sure it flows enough. From there its pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and I write out the entire manuscript from beginning to end. Generally I do this within a short period of time, maybe a month or two. The shorter time the better. I tend to over analyze the more time I have to think about it. I write as I go. After that I let the manuscript rest for a while. Usually six months to a year later I go back and go over parts of it again. At this point I try to find someone in the writing community to go over the manuscript for consistency and the general spelling and grammar that I may have missed. Then after that I sought out a publisher for my manuscript.

8. How did you find your publisher?

Truthfully? I was playing this online game called Evony, maybe you all have heard of it, anyways I was chatting with some of the people I played with and one of them told me about a friend of his who ran a small publishing house. Next thing I knew I had found myself a publisher. So really it was a fluke for me. I have however gone the more traditional route when looking for a publisher as well.

9. What are three of the most important lessons you’ve learned about writing over the years?

1) Grow a thick skin in advance. Your story is your baby, but it is not anyone else’s. They do not care about your story as much as you do and some will pick it apart. You can not take it personally. Learn from it, yes. Take it as a slight against you, no.

2)If you are going the traditional publishing route, and not self publishing, you should never have to lay out any money to have your book published. I got tricked into that once many years ago by a very crafty and believable agent said he needed the money upfront for phone and photocopying fees. She is currently sitting in a jail cell in Texas where me and a good many other people hope she rots.

3)A wise writer once said “In order to be a good writer you must first be a good reader.” Never were truer words spoken. Read constantly. Learn everything you can about the craft from those who walked before you and then employ the things you learn in your own writing. Learn what works and what doesn’t. Hone your skills. And never stop learning and growing.

10. What are you working on that readers can look forward to next?

The next book in the series Dragon Twins is currently being looked over in a first run through editing process. I am hoping that once the first book hits main stream that I will be able to start working on getting the second into production.

To purchase a copy of Sacrifice of Innocence or find out more about Allison, click here.

Do you have any questions or comments for Allison? Leave them here and she’ll come around to answer them and say hello.